Fair fares and high speed
With adult return fares from London to Brussels and Paris currently available from £59 return, budget-conscious British travelers are well aware that in terms of price and city center to city center journey times Eurostar knocks spots off the competition from airlines. And this train service has subtly reshaped England’s relationship with Europe — most particularly since late 2007 when the stylish terminal at St. Pancras replaced dowdy Waterloo as the London launch-pad for trains to the continent.
Londoners have suddenly realised that the journey from St. Pancras to Brussels takes no longer than the ride from St. Pancras to Sheffield. You can hop on Eurostar in London and alight at Calais (the first stop in France) less than an hour later.
But Eurostar is more than merely the canny way to reach Brussels and Paris. It is a good choice for a wonderful range of other journeys. For example, Eurostar offers winter-season direct trains from London to the French Alps. The current season is well underway with most services already heavily booked. The last return trains from Bourg-St-Maurice and Moûtiers-Salins are this year on April 13.
From London to Aix-en-Provence
Eurostar has long run a summer service from London to Avignon and that popular route to Provence is set to return for 2013, but with an interesting twist. Direct trains to Avignon will this year run for a longer summer season (with the first departure from London on May 4 and the last on August 31). During the months of May and June, these trains will be extended beyond Avignon to Aix-en-Provence.
Aix thus becomes the most distant point from London to which it has ever been possible to travel on a direct train from London. Way back in pre-Eurostar days, there were direct overnight sleeper services from London to the continent. The trains cars were ferried over the English Channel in a boat. For a time there were even through carriages to Switzerland, but never has there been anything to match this new direct train to Aix.
Eurostar will purr from St. Pancras to Aix-en-Provence, a journey of 1,215 km (about 755 miles), in just over six hours. Return fares to Aix can still be booked from just £109.
How to book tickets
To grab the best fares on Eurostar, bear in mind the forward booking horizons that apply to your intended route. For the capital city services from London to Paris and Brussels, tickets go on sale four months before departure. That same forward booking horizon applies for tickets to Calais and Lille.
But tickets for other Eurostar destinations go on sale very much longer in advance. For example, the company runs a direct service from London to Marne la Vallée – Chessy (a route that is hugely popular with British families bound for Disneyland, but also useful for the excellent connections at Marne la Vallée into the French TGV network). And tickets on those trains can already be booked right through to October 2013.
Tickets for all direct trains to Avignon and Aix in 2013 can already be booked on the Eurostar website — right through to August 31, 2013. But if you are looking to book a trip to the ski slopes on one of Eurostar’s direct trains to the Alps for next winter, you’ll have to wait a while yet. We expect tickets for those services to be released for sale in July 2013.